Cloud Platform Release Announcements for March 21, 2018

Azure Databricks | GA

On March 22, we announced the general availability of Azure Databricks. Azure Databricks is a fast, easy and collaborative Apache® Spark™ based analytics platform optimized for Azure. Designed in collaboration with the founders of Apache Spark, Azure Databricks combines the best of Databricks and Azure to help customers accelerate innovation with one-click set up; streamlined workflows and an interactive workspace that enables collaboration between data scientists, data engineers, and business analysts. As an Azure service, customers automatically benefit native integration with other Azure services such as Power BI, SQL Data Warehouse, Cosmos DB as well as from enterprise-grade Azure security, including Active Directory integration, compliance, and enterprise-grade SLAs.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse | Databricks integration

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a fast, flexible and trusted analytics platform for enterprises. Azure SQL Data Warehouse and Azure Databricks now deliver tighter integration to enable data scientists to easily export and import data between the two services. This new functionality will enable higher productivity for data scientists while reducing time it takes to prepare data for analysis. To find out more, goto

FastTrack for Azure

FastTrack for Azure provides direct assistance from Azure engineers, working together with partners, to help customers build Azure solutions quickly and confidently. FastTrack brings best practices and tools from real customer experiences to guide customers from set up, configuration, and development to production of Azure solutions as indicated in the roadmap. FastTrack for Azure is now available to eligible customers located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe*. Learn more at

*FastTrack for Azure is available English only in these countries within the Western Europe region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nordics, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Azure security and operations management | Azure Alerts—GA

With Azure Monitoring Services, you can set up alerts to monitor the metrics and log data for the entire stack across your infrastructure, application, and Azure platform. We're excited to announce that new alerts are now generally available. Learn more about the new alerts capabilities in our blog post.

Backup and restore performance improvements and support for large disk backup

Support for backup of large disk virtual machines (VMs) and a new set of improvements aimed at reducing time taken for backup and restore are now available. These improvements and large disk support are based on a new VM backup stack, and are available for both managed and unmanaged disks. Seamlessly upgrade to this new stack without any impact to your ongoing backup jobs, and there's no change to how you set up backup or restore.

This announcement combines multiple feature improvements:

  • Large disk support—Backup VMs with disk sizes up to 4 TB (4,095 GB), both managed and unmanaged.
  • Instant recovery point—A recovery point is available as soon as the snapshot is done as part of the backup job. This eliminates the need to wait to trigger restore until the data transfer phase of the backup is completed. This is particularly useful in scenarios where you want to apply a patch.
  • Backup and Restore performance improvements—As part of this new announcement, we're retaining the snapshots taken as part of the backup job for seven days. This will help us to compute the changes between two backup jobs in an efficient manner to reduce the backup time. These snapshots can also be used to trigger restore, and reduce the restore time from hours to minutes.
  • Distribute the disks of restored VM—If you're using unmanaged VM, you might have noticed that all disks restore to the same storage account. We're adding a capability to tell us to distribute those disks to the same set of storage accounts as the original VM in order to reduce the reconfiguration needed post restore.


You'll see a banner on the Recovery Services vault dashboard. Clicking on the banner will open a screen where you can upgrade the stack and get above feature improvements. You can upgrade the complete subscription from any of the vaults. Once upgraded, all VM backups in the subscription will get backed up using the new stack.


Please execute following cmdlets from an elevated PowerShell terminal:

  1. Sign in to your Azure Account.
    PS C:> Login-AzureRmAccount
  2. Select the subscription you want to register for preview.
    PS C:> Get-AzureRmSubscription –SubscriptionName "Subscription Name" | Select-AzureRmSubscription
  3. Register this subscription for private preview.
    PS C:> Register-AzureRmProviderFeature -FeatureName “InstantBackupandRecovery” –ProviderNamespace Microsoft.RecoveryServices

Windows Server | Windows Server 2019 disclosure

On March 20th, 2018, Microsoft announced the availability of the preview builds for Windows Server 2019. Windows Server 2019 will mark the next release in our long-term servicing channel, which continues to be the recommended version of Windows Server for most scenarios, including workloads like Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint, and Windows Server software-defined solutions.

The innovations in Windows Server 2019 are primarily driven by customer feedback, and you can expect to see new features and capabilities around Hybrid Cloud, Security, Application Platform with containers, and hyper-converged infrastructure.

Sign up for the Windows Insiders program today to download the preview build.

Azure security and operations management | Security Center is built into the virtual machine (VM) experience

Now in preview, Azure Security Center is built into the virtual machine experience, making it simpler for you to gain insight into the security posture of your virtual machines and take action.

Learn more about how you can secure your virtual machines.

Azure Traffic Manager Real User Measurements | GA

Azure Traffic Manager announces the general availability of Real User Measurements. This capability provides increased accuracy of routing decisions made by Azure Traffic Manager for queries against their profiles. It also ensures that Azure Traffic Manager’s existing network latency intelligence adequately spans the specific networks from where their users connect. Customers using this capability will run an Azure provided JavaScript code in their web properties to measure latency from their users’ networks to Azure regions. These measurements will be sent to the Azure Traffic Manager service where it will be used to enhance routing decisions. Customers needing to minimize network latency will be able to achieve that by using the Real User Measurements feature.

For more information, including pricing details, please visit the Real User Measurements overview page and the Azure Traffic Manager pricing page.

Azure Traffic Manager Traffic View | GA

Azure Traffic Manager announces the general availability of Traffic View. By using Traffic View, customers can understand where their user bases are located (up to a local DNS resolver level granularity), the volume of traffic originating from these regions, the representative latency experienced by these users. They can also deep dive into the specific traffic patterns from each of these user bases to Azure regions where the customer has presence. This information will be available in a geographic map in the Azure portal, and can be downloaded as raw data. This will give customers actionable intelligence on how to manage their capacity at existing Azure regions as well as new Azure regions to which they need to expand. For more information, including the pricing details, please visit the Traffic View overview page and the Azure Traffic Manager pricing page.

Power BI Desktop | GA

New features and updates are now available in Power BI Desktop.

Reporting: Report page tooltips is now in preview. Bookmarking is now generally available, as is display units and precision control for table and matrix columns. The ability to turn off the visual header in reading mode for a report, and improved default visual placement are both now available.

The following custom visuals are now available: Mapbox, User List by CloudScope, Timeline by CloudScope, KPI Chart by Akvelon, R DataTable, Outliers Detection, Data Insights by MAQ Software, Dumbbell Chart by MAQ Software, and Clustering using OPTICS by MAQ Software.

Data connectivity: New SAP HANA connector enhancements—DirectQuery multidimensional support and SSL certificate validation support—are now available. SAP BW DirectQuery and Azure Analysis Services connector are now generally available.

Error reporting: Improved error reporting and view previous errors you’ve encountered are now available.

For more information on these new features and others, read the March 2018 update feature summary on the Power BI Blog.

Power BI mobile and mixed reality apps | GA

New features and updates are now available in the Power BI mobile apps. These include report tooltip touch optimization, Power BI for Mixed Reality app (in preview), persistent filters, phone optimization for embedded reports, and external sharing.

For more information on these new features and others, visit the Power BI Blog and read the Power BI for Mixed Reality public preview announcement.

Power BI service | GA

New and most frequently requested Power BI features are now available to end users: Automatically install apps, P4 and P5 capacities on Premium, Organizational custom visuals (Preview), February update for On-premises data gateway. Sign in to to experience the new features immediately. For more information on these new features and others, read the Power BI Service and Mobile February Feature Summary on the Power BI Blog.

Azure database services for MySQL and PostgreSQL GA

Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL are now generally available Azure Database for PostgreSQL and Azure Database for MySQL are now generally available with an uptime SLA of 99.99 percent. These services bring the community versions of MySQL and PostgreSQL database engines together with built-in high availability, elastic scaling for performance, and industry leading security and compliance. Azure database services for MySQL and PostgreSQL enable flexibility for your apps—from your choice of framework and language to a rich ecosystem of tools and services, making it easier for you to build intelligent apps faster.

Learn more about regional availability on the Azure Services webpage.

Azure SQL Database | Columnstore—GA

Inclusion of columnstore technology in Standard SLO Azure SQL Database

We’re pleased to announce the momentum for a common programming surface area that started with SQL Server 2016 SP1 and will continue in Azure SQL Database with the inclusion of columnstore technology in some Standard SLO offerings. Beginning in March 2018, users with databases that are at or above the S3 level will be able to create columnstore indexes in their databases.

Learn more about this announcement.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse | Japan West, Australia East, and India West—GA

Azure SQL Data Warehouse in now generally available in three additional regions—Japan West, Australia East, and India West. SQL Data Warehouse is a fast, flexible, and secure analytics platform for the enterprise, and these additional locations bring the product worldwide availability count to all 33 regions—more than any other major cloud data warehouse provider.

Visual Studio Team Services | Release Management deployment groups—GA

Deployment groups are now generally available in Visual Studio Team Services Release Management. This now supports robust, in-the-box, multimachine deployments. Users can now orchestrate deployments across multiple machines and perform rolling updates while ensuring the high availability of applications throughout the deployment process.
Virtual Machines can be added to deployment groups by installing a Visual Studio Team Services agent or through the Continuous Delivery blade in the Azure portal (now in preview).

DevTest Labs | DevTest Labs in Azure Gov (Fairfax)—GA

Start your organization’s DevOps adoption with Azure Dev Test Labs Azure DevTest Labs is coming to Azure Government cloud in Fairfax. Azure DevTest Labs is the self-service sandbox environment in Azure to quickly create Dev/Test environments while minimizing waste and controlling costs. With Azure DevTest Labs, you, the lab creator, select the settings for lab use, security, compliance, and governance. You define the VM bases available via Azure Marketplace images, custom images, or predefined formulas that users can create on demand. Authorized lab users can use reusable artifacts to run extensions and deploy applications once a VM is created. In this way, IT is not a bottleneck, and your software teams are empowered to work with agility and self-service—the DevOps way.

Public sector customers can use Azure DevTest Labs to address challenges like:

  • Improving resource use and cost optimization.
  • Modernizing legacy applications and IT infrastructure.
  • Employing agile development and DevOps with minimal organizational structure change.
  • Nurturing citizen developers in low-risk scenarios.

For more information on how commercial customers are using DevTest Labs, check out the stories of Daimler, Aurora Health Care, and RMS.

Stay connected with the latest announcements on DevTest Labs.

Azure Active Directory | Automated expiration for Office 365 groups—GA

Get rid of unused groups in your tenant with the automated expiration policy, now generally available, in Azure Active Directory. In this release, the owner can now see greater details on their groups in the My Apps portal, and can renew directly in the portal. The notification emails have also been redesigned to simplify the user workflow.

Learn more about the expiration policy announcement.